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Guest Post – Here we go (again)

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By Ella Reilly

So Nottingham Forest have sacked another manager. It’s becoming a horribly familiar announcement.

Brian Clough’s oft’ repeated adage that “If a chairman sacks the manager he initially appointed, he should go as well” immediately leapt to mind when I heard the news. Suffice to say, I’m not happy with the decision.

Obviously there are a few disclaimers I need to make here. Living on the other side of the planet I don’t watch every game – I see barely any in their entirety, given they are hardly on TV and finding and streaming games on dodgy links isn’t a feasible option for me. So I can’t comment on the style of play (which by all accounts recently has been poor) or tactical decisions made in the context of a match.

Being a fan rather than an employee intimately acquainted with the day-to-day machinations of a professional football club means that I, like a good 99% of those who obsess about and comment on football, don’t actually know exactly what goes on behind the closed doors of the chairman’s office or the boardroom. Like everyone else, I can only draw my own conclusions from the club’s carefully calibrated PR-approved statements, non-revealing player media interviews, or reading carefully between the lines of fellow fans’ chatter on social media.

But questions still remain.

How could Dougie Freedman have been properly judged as manager of the club when he’s not been able to work unshackled by an embargo in the transfer market? You might as well berate captain Chris Cohen for not scoring the winning goal on the weekend, despite the fact he’s just come back from a career-threatening layoff and was playing out of position at left back. Technically he was on the pitch and therefore could have scored, so why didn’t he?

And seriously. Would we have been relegated this season had we stuck with Dougie? I doubt it. Mathematically speaking it’s not yet impossible, but logically speaking all we really have to do is not lose many more games. It’s unlikely that we’ll win many given the current spate of injuries in the squad, but at this stage of the season with the playoffs no longer a possibility the best we can realistically hope for is not getting relegated and some experimentation with current player with an eye on August. This season was always going to be difficult.

What frustrates me, as a fan, is the lack of a plan B. There’s no one specifically in mind to take over the club (and who in their right mind would want to at the moment?), so it looks like we’re going from stagnating and drifting with a manager to probably stagnating and drifting without one. I suppose at least then we could say that we managed to stave off relegation without a manager, and hold this up as an omen for next season.

I’m not on Twitter (though I’ll peruse it from time to time), but what’s struck me from my brief look today is the proportion of reasonably high-profile responses showing support for Dougie: former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan slamming the decision, former England footballer Trevor Sinclair noting the lack of loyalty at work in the aftermath of the sorry affair (as Dougie’s assistant manager, who Dougie brought in, is now the club’s temporary manager).* That’s something that’s rarely discussed in football these days.

Watching an interview this morning, I felt distinctly uncomfortable hearing Fawaz say that he didn’t want to rush appointing a new manager because “he will ask for [a] two- or three-year contract” as opposed to a one-year deal. I’m not sure what manager (or any prospective employee for that matter) would ask to work in such limited conditions (remember the embargo. Although owner Fawaz Al Hazawi is confident it will be lifted this summer, this hasn’t been categorically confirmed). Short-term thinking doesn’t generate stability for any organisation, let alone a football club. No-one wants him to panic-hire a new manager, but at the same time it sounds like he’s hopeful that some messiah will emerge from the woodwork. I’d love that to happen, but it won’t.

There’s a cruel irony in that, in the latest odds for who will be our next manager, a noticeable proportion of them are former managers (and we all know how the second coming of Billy Davies played out, with Forest becoming football’s equivalent of North Korea in the media world, and transfer decisions precipitating the embargo we’re currently mired in. Having said that, the last I saw he’s on at 20-1 for a third instalment).

look who's back

This isn’t a personal crack at Fawaz (and those vilely abusing him on social media need to take a long hard look at themselves). But it’s hard to hear him say yet again that he understands that fans are frustrated at the lack of stability at Forest, when he’s the one constantly pulling the trigger on the manager. Of course it’s thanks to him and his investment in the club that Forest is still around, this shouldn’t mean we avoid the problems at play here.

What’s happened at Forest is symptomatic of the wider culture in professional football these days. It’s been said countless times now that the impatience of shareholders, chairmen, and fans has created this destructive short-term mentality. But for me, the (now cliché) example of Sir Alex Ferguson’s early days at Manchester United still hold true. Ultimately he rebuilt a football club and its systems, and that takes time, but at the very least it produced a foundation and stability, which Forest is so in need of right now.

Too often as fans we look at the constant chopping and changing and throw up our hands, saying ‘oh that’s just how football is now’, and admonish anyone who suggests otherwise as living in the past. But by refusing to reflect on the issues that have lead Forest to this point, all we’re really doing is looking at the greener grass on the other side of the pitch, only to eventually find ourselves back where we started with nothing to show but a circle of muddy footprints.

*NOTE: Following his first game in charge after Dougie’s sacking, Paul Williams said that he sought the former manager’s blessing for him to take over, so it’s unfair of me to imply that he was disloyal. – Ella, 22/03/2016

[Ella Reilly is a long suffering Nottingham Forest and England supporter, and also a great stalwart of her local club – Waiheke United AFC]

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

3 replies

  1. Dougie Freedman wasn’t a universally popular appointment in the first place.
    What hasn’t helped is his style of play – why would you play 4-5-1 at home to Bolton???
    The fans have spoken with their feet. The average attendance this season is under 20,000 which is not good enough.
    Financial Fair Play is a bit of a joke. QPR broke the limit, but because they were promoted incurred no punishment. There was talk of a large fine, but that never materialised. Bournemouth too last season had a bigger loss than Forest with half the turnover but they too got promoted and so are immune from the FFP.
    FFP was introduced to stop clubs overspending and going bust (the Portsmouth rule) but Bolton are £172m in debt which was incurred whilst a premier league team.
    The biggest problem at the club is the fact it has no CEO.
    Fawaz has pumped millions into the club. Installed replay screens and in general improved the facilities. But he is not a football man and it has shown. He is been naive rather than reckless. The cashflow issue is proof of this. Delayed wages occurred because of a double bank holiday in Kuwait so the transfer of funds was not forthcoming in time. A CEO would have ensured that this did not happen.
    Maybe Fawaz should approach Karen Brady??? We need someone with balls to make tough calls and set a realistic football budget,
    I was not upset or surprised at seeing Dougie go although the timing was odd.
    I will give him 3 things:
    1. He was hampered by injuries. Last week there were no fit strikers at the club. Britt Asombolonga has been out for 13 months, Matt Fryatt 15 months, Andy Reid 18 months. We have lost our top goal scorer to a groin injury so he is out for the season
    2. He did unearth some cheap gems – Dani Pinallos was a dynamite left back until injury and his replacement Jokic is class and will do well for Slovakia at the Euros. Getting Matt Mills and Jamie Ward on free transfers was good business
    3. He was forced to blood youth. Last week there were 6 academy players in the 18 man squad. Benny Osbourne and Jorge Grant started. Demi Evtimov, Gerry McDonagh, Tyler Walker (son of Forest legend Des) and Oli Burke on the bench (Burke for Scotland fans has been called up to the main squad and is very highly rated to become one of Scotlands best players of the next few years). There are also a few more of the periphery which excite the Forest faithful including a flying Lithuanian winger who played against England in the Euro qualifiers at Wembley before he started a game for Forest!!!

    It has been a frustrating few years for the Forest faithful. Unless a CEO is appointed soon, that will not change

  2. Hey Simon

    Good to hear from another NZ Forest fan!

    Definitely agree on the point that we need a CEO. Fawaz, as you say, isn’t a football man, and the issues that you’ve highlighted show this. I agree that his problems (and hence Forest’s) have stemmed more from naivety rather than recklessness. I think that’s part of the problem though. His inability (or unwillingness?) to recognise where his abilities *don’t* lie are ultimately harming the club. Can’t fault his passion, but we need more than that driving decision making (having an average managerial reign of about five months over the last few years is nuts).

    When it comes down to it, the timing of the sacking was rubbish – and it hasn’t achieved anything (one shot on target against Derby? Seriously???). Like you, I wasn’t falling over myself when Dougie was hired in the first place (then again, I wasn’t when Psycho was appointed – love him as a player and as a Forest legend, but always had doubts about his managerial ability), but I still believe he’s not really had a proper chance to do the job, having had to do it effectively with one hand tied behind his back (although in spite of the restrictions he’s made some great signings and blooded in the young ones well).

    Maybe if he’d had a proper transfer window out of the FFP shackles and things still weren’t improving then I’d have been more inclined to see who else might step into the dugout. But now we’re just back to square one again. It was unrealistic to expect that we’d have made the playoffs and got promotion this season given all the factors at play. Our top striker was only available to Dougie for what, half a match before he was injured? Having to sell Michail Antonio a few matches into the season (though it’s fantastic to see him doing so well in the Premier League)? Reidy and Fryatt out for over a year?

    This season was always going to be difficult. I just hope the next is better.

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